children ministry

Does Content Really Matter When Forming Disciples?

I felt like I needed a mini-course to understand what I had to teach. Granted, I had pulled out the lesson at the last minute and didn't give myself the recommended week to prepare for my small group. But everything I was looking at seemed like it was written in secret code. After minutes of realizing that I wouldn't do the content justice, I resorted to my default plan of leading my high school guys through a Lectio Divina based on the weekend's readings. Despite feeling guilty about abandoning the expensive content my parish had subscribed to, the session went well.

When it comes to forming disciples, having the right content is essential. With the right content, you can provoke deep thought and stimulate enthusiastic conversations that can lead to life change. Your formation for kids, teens, and adults can cultivate the disciples the Church needs. However, content isn't everything.

Content does matter in forming disciples, but without the following ingredients, it will fall flat and become another wasted investment. If you truly want your content to shine, you need to ensure that you have:


If all you had to do was share a book, podcast, or exercise with someone, growing in faith would be simple. Whether your formation programs are small-group, large-group, family-based, or anything in between, you need a team to accompany individuals on the journey.

When you have the right people serving in your formation ministries, it not only expands your capacity to do more but also empowers the faithful to work together in growing disciples. You want to make sure you have people who not only understand the faith but are also committed to listening to life's biggest questions, praying with others through difficult moments, and exploring the rich Tradition of our faith.

Finding the right people takes time, but more importantly, it requires a vision of what it looks like to walk with others. Don't be afraid to sit down and think about the characteristics and habits you want your team to embrace. Coach and train your leaders to develop and grow in their faith so they can share it with others. When you have the right people, what you share will go a lot further.


Not everyone learns well in a classroom setting. And even if someone loves school, adding another day to their week can do more harm than good. Faith is more than an academic subject; therefore, we have to get creative with our catechesis.

We have to remember that people learn through a variety of different mediums. Some people need something tangible or experiential to grasp Truth. Others will engage with the faith through storytelling or art. While the response to this variety is to create more programming, consider your environments and opportunities.

Instead of creating small groups or classrooms, you could conduct your formation like a club or team. Host your formation outside, at a local coffee shop, or while playing a game of ultimate frisbee instead of in classrooms or homes.

Yes, there will be times when you just need to sit down at a table and open up a book, but don't make that your only approach. Be sure to invest in different environments and opportunities to facilitate growth.


What does successful formation look like? Yes, numbers are a part of that equation, but how do we know if the numbers are healthy? We have to know the answer, or else we are at risk of wasting a lot of money on expensive content. When it comes to forming disciples, we have to know what characteristics, habits, and qualities we want to develop. When you can clearly identify a disciple, then you are able to measure your ministry's health and determine what content your programs need.

If you are unsure where to start with identifying the ultimate outcome, consider thinking about the habits and characteristics your parish values the most. Reflect on the Christ-like behaviors (e.g., Adoration, tithing) you want a young person to embrace. Try to limit the list to 5 or 7 habits that can lead to further growth. Once you start identifying that disciple, you can decide what content and resources you need to achieve that goal (Want more help on the ultimate outcome? Sign up for MYM Premium and get a copy of our exercise Who's That Disciple HERE).

The content you choose for your ministry will make a difference as long as you have the right people, understand your context, and have an end in mind. Before getting caught up in the hype and empty promises, make sure it aligns with the charisms and personality of your parish. When parishes understand that the content they choose is a tool and not the silver bullet that will fix their ministry, they will be able to leverage it in a way that honors the mission God has given them.

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